[artinfo] The Future of Geotagged Audio

Turbulence turbulence at turbulence.org
Fri Jul 6 23:47:14 CEST 2007

The Future of Geotagged Audio
By Peter Traub
Blogged on Networked_Music_Review

For my inaugural post to [Networked_Music_Review], I'd like to write about
something I've been thinking about lately, and hopefully begin a discussion
on it. Namely, what to make of geotagged audio samples and recordings
(http//freesound.iua.upf.edu/geotagsView.php). In case you're not familiar
with the term, geotagging is the practice of assigning geographic
coordinates to a piece of media like a recording or photo as a form of
metadata. In one incarnation, such as on the Freesound project
(http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/), geotagged samples are layered over Google
maps, allowing one to zoom in on any spot on the planet and potentially find
samples tagged to specific geographic locations. As numerous startups and
one very large corporation (beginning with a 'G' and ending with 'oogle')
have realized, the commercial potential of geotagging is huge. But we hear
less about its scientific potential and, of importance here, its aesthetic

Scientifically, geotagged audio has potential in areas such as the
environmental sciences. As one example, imagine taking annual recordings of
a section of forest over many years, studying the variations or declines in
population of certain bird species via their prominence in the recordings.
This has likely already been done, but then imagine putting those
incremental recordings into the public sphere via an application like Google

Of course, as an artist, I am primarily interested in the aesthetic
potential of this technology. Currently on Freesound (and hopefully soon on
Google Earth too), one can navigate around a map of the world, looking for
and listening to geotagged samples, downloading them if one is interested in
using them further. However, once the geotagged sample is downloaded and
separated from its coordinates, it becomes just another field recording
without any accompanying data. For a geotagged sample or recording to be of
value compositionally - as a geotagged sample tied to a specific place and
not just an anonymous field recording - the metadata must be maintained for
compositional use. This is where we apparently reach the edge of current
development: tools for working compositionally with geotagged sounds off of
a network have not really been developed. There is a multitude of approaches
to using this type of material, from composers interested in ecoacoustics to
installationists wanting to tap 'global' recordings in some improvisatory
way. What I'm getting at here is the need for a discussion (hopefully to
take place below), about the aesthetic and technical issues surrounding
geotagged audio, and tools that composers/artists would like to see
available for making the best of this material.

If you were to make use of geotagged audio, what would you use it for? What
kind of interfaces into a geotagged audio database would interest you?
[Respond here http://tinyurl.com/3cy7a9]

Jo-Anne Green, Co-Director
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.: http://new-radio.org
New York: 917.548.7780 . Boston: 617.522.3856
Turbulence: http://turbulence.org
Networked_Performance Blog: http://turbulence.org/blog
Networked_Music_Review: http://turbulence.org/networked_music_review
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